After all the conjunctions at dawn in Leo the past few weeks, you’d think nature would give it a rest. Not on your life. Tomorrow morning (Thurs. Oct. 5), Venus will pass just ¼° north of Mars low in the eastern sky in … Leo! This remarkably close pair should be a beautiful sight and well worth the effort of rising a bit earlier than usual.
The best time to see the two planets double up is from about 5:30-6:30 a.m. or 90 minutes to about an hour before sunrise. Find a place that has a wide open view towards the east. You can’t miss Venus, the showiest planet around, but you might miss Mars if you didn’t know it was tucked right next to it. Although very close, I don’t think you’ll have a problem splitting the two without optical aid. But bring binoculars anyway just for a different take on the scene.
Although Venus and Mars will appear close — almost touching — Mars is 95 million miles farther away from Earth than its brighter companion. They only appear close because we see them along the same line of sight. Venus shines at magnitude –3.9, while Mars is almost 250 times fainter at magnitude 1.8. Not only is Venus closer, but it’s larger and possesses a bright, reflective coat of dense clouds.
If you have cloudy weather, you can still see the duo linger near one another through Saturday. Friday morning, they’ll be ½° apart and 1° on Saturday. Good luck, clear skies.